I returned from 12 months of maternity leave in late 2015. During my maternity leave my role was changed from a more involved HR role to a very transactional and administrator role. It is worth mentioning that all staff at my level throughout the UK were affected by this change. Although it was a demotion of the type of work I was involved in the pay and conditions remain the same and it was consistent across all staff at my level. I returned to work, working three days per week on a supposed job share with the woman who covered my role full time whilst I was away. She works full time and I work three days, so effectively we are working at 1.6FTE. I have a letter that states that there would be a formal review of this after six months. There was no formal review at all. I have raised issues with this on several occasions as there is not enough volume of work for two people on the hours that we have. Furthermore her fixed-term contract at the full-time hours was made permanent three months ago without any of my concerns regarding the job share and allocation of work being addressed. In fact no investigation into whether the company needed a FTE on top of the hours I already completed was made. My job share partner does get the more complicated and involved work and I get the very simple and easy to complete work which in my opinion is because I only work three days. They have been flexible in my working requests on returning from maternity, but I feel like I have been replaced and I have very little to do in the way of work and often find myself begging for work which does not reflect my level of qualification or experience.
I’m sorry to hear you are experiencing problems at work.
When an employee returns from 12 months maternity leave, she entitled to return to her existing job/role. However, if there is some business reason why it is not reasonably practicable for an employer to permit her to return to the same job, she is entitled to return to a different job which is both suitable for her and appropriate in the circumstances on terms and conditions that are no less favourable than they would have been had she not been absent on maternity leave.
It would seem that you returned to your existing role following maternity leave, albeit on a part-time basis of three days per week, and that in doing so, your employer has acted appropriately in the circumstances. However, if you believe that your maternity leave cover who has since been offered a permanent position has effectively “bumped” you out of your role, then this may also amount to discrimination on grounds of maternity.
In respect of being allocated the very simple, less complicated and less involved work, this may amount to maternity discrimination, as it could be argued that the less favourable treatment is because you have exercised your right to maternity leave.
Because you are being allocated simpler and less involved work than your full-time equivalent, it could also be argued that you are being treated less favourably because you are a part-time employee. This gives rise to a potential claim under the Part-Time Workers (Prevention of Less Favourable Treatment) Regulations 2000 (“PTW Regulations”), if your employer cannot show that the less favourable treatment is objectively justified. Further, this could also give rise to a claim for sex discrimination, as it could be argued that the less favourable treatment is related to the fact that you are a female and have childcare responsibilities which means you can only work part time.
I would advise you to raise a formal grievance in relation to the issue, as it would seem that the issue has not been resolved following you raising the issue informally. Your employer must follow its own Grievance Policy, and as a minimum, the ACAS Code of Practice on Disciplinary and Grievance procedures (which can be found on the ACAS website), in investigating your grievance properly and in a timely manner. This may resolve the issue.
However, if you wish to pursue an employment tribunal claim for breach of the PTW Regulations, maternity and/or sex discrimination, subject to the ACAS Early Conciliation process, you have a 3-month time limit in which to bring your claims. The time limit in which to bring your claims will run from the date of the discriminatory act/ date of the less favourable treatment, or if there are a series of discriminatory acts/ less favourable treatment, the time limit will run from the last act of discrimination/ less favourable treatment.
I hope this information assists.